3 things you MUST do to manage a successful veterinary practice

May 13, 2016
Brendan Howard, Business Channel Director

Brendan Howard oversees veterinary business, practice management and life-balance content for dvm360.com, dvm360 magazine, Firstline and Vetted, and plans the Practice Management track at all three Fetch dvm360 conferences.Brendan has proudly served under the Veterinary Economics and dvm360 banners for more than 10 years. Before that, he worked as a journalist, writer and editor at Entrepreneur magazine and a top filmed entertainment magazine in Southern California. Brendan received a Masters in English Literature from University of California, Riverside, in 1999.

Highlights from a list of 10 must-do actions Mark Opperman, CVPM, shared at CVC Virginia Beach are essential in veterinary practice.

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Everyone wants their veterinary practice to be successful. (Maybe there's one guy out there trying to run his hospital into the ground. Dude, we see you.) But the rest of you want the best, happiest place around-somewhere that offers pets crucial care, pet owners loving compassion, employees truly meaningful work and, yes, everyone the profit to keep the doors open.

So because you missed Mark Opperman, CVPM, at CVC Virginia Beach (you're gonna catch him at CVC Kansas City and CVC San Diego, right?), we hit up one of his sessions for you and dug out three (of 10) things you MUST do to manage a successful veterinary practice.

Opperman

We were gonna share all 10, but let's start slow, alright? Change is hard.

1. We're on a mission from Dog

Opperman asked attendees for a show of hands: Whose practice had a mission statement? At least half went up.

Next? Who can recite their mission statement? A lot fewer.

Finally? Whose practice's team members can all recite their mission statement? No hands.

Opperman was disappointed, but clearly he'd been planning to hit these folks with a little inspiration: “All your employees really want to know what makes your practice special, what makes your practice stand out.

And, look, people only memorize a business mission statement because it's important. They live by it. They (gently but proudly) call each other out to make sure they're all fulfilling it. They stand a little taller because the practice down the road doesn't live by a mission statement.

Yeah, maybe it's corny (although nobody said that to Opperman), but you're special and your practice is special. Time to figure out why and make sure you're living up to patients'-and clients'-expectations.

And that brings us to ...

2. Frou-frous or frugal

Many practices try, but can anyone really meet everyone's expectations? Superior service and economical pricing and anytime availability and warm cookies in the reception area?

Opperman trotted out one of his favorite metaphors for veterinary practices: the hospitality industry.

“Every night Marriott and Motel 6 fill up,” Opperman told the audience. “Some go to Marriott, some go to Motel 6. It's not right or wrong. It's called niche marketing.”

Opperman was quick to say he's visited practices he'd call Ritz-Carltons of veterinary service and charged appropriately for that level of close, continuous service. He also said he'd seen good medical care at the veterinary equivalent for a Motel 6. Opperman wasn't judging.

He repeated his advice here twice: “Identify your niche, be true to your niche, and then don't only meet, but exceed your client expectations.”

Whatever those expectations are: long visits with lots of education and expensive work … short visits for minimal, basic care and emergencies … something in the middle? That's up to you.

3. Hire 10s, fire 7s

Opperman was fired up the most during his hourlong session talking about employees and the concept of 10.

The idea? Rate your employees 1 to 10. 10s are perfect. Keep ‘em. 8s and 9s can be coached to 10. Anything 7 or lower?

“I want you actively seeking to replace that individual,” Opperman said. “They bring everyone else down to their level.”

Why should a 9-out-of-10 employee work hard when a 6-out-of-10 gets a paycheck too?

Audience members knew who their 10s were and why: “They're always wanting to learn” ... “They love the job more than anything” … “They're the best in every part of the hospital” … “They're proactive and do what needs to be done.”

Opperman's energy in these sessions is always loud, inspirational and authoritative. Stop settling for “good enough” in you, your practice and your team members, he seemed to say with every powerful pronouncement.

It's time to be the veterinary practice owner, associate, manager, technician, assistant or receptionist you've always dreamed you could be.